Headquartered in the old customs building in the Port of Long Beach, small business Grace Industries, LLC is doing big things for the LGBTQ economy.
A licensed Truckload Brokerage and Logistics Support Organization, Grace Industries began five years ago after co-founder Christie Maier got tired of the lack of LGBTQ+ and female representation in the industry. The Pride L.A. talked with Christie and her wife and fellow Grace Industries co-owner, Mechelle Maier, about how their Long Beach Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce-certified business came to be.
The Pride L.A.: Tell me about Grace Industries. How would you describe the company?
Mechelle: Grace Industries LLC is a Licensed Truckload Brokerage and Logistics Support Organization. Our Transportation Brokerage service focuses on supporting the construction industry while our Logistics Support services focus on warehousing, kitting and value-added services (specialty labeling, price ticketing, etc). We are experts at transporting large, heavy, over dimension materials across the United States. We are a certified LGBT, Woman Owned, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE-CUPC LA Metro) and Certified as a LGBT and WBE for the California Public Utilities commission. While our corporate offices are located in Long Beach California, we provide transportation and logistics services across the US.
The Pride L.A.: How did Grace Industries begin?
Christie: After spending 25+ years being responsible for large scale, multi-facility logistics, transportation and manufacturing organizations, I realized that I can count on one hand how many LGBT and woman owners I had encountered during my career path. I wanted to work to fill that gap, so in 2013 we opened Grace Industries LLC. Both my wife and I knew we could leverage our experience and contacts into a solid business plan that would result in some initial contracts. During my wife’s career path, she had been a Vice President for various financial institutions.
In our first year, we worked with some large companies executing small projects. After the first year of operations, I realized that the construction industry is absolutely fascinating. It was something about the large scale, engineering marvels that compelled me to find a way to become involved in their construction. As a result, we began to focus our energy around providing transportation for construction projects. While we only provide transportation for these projects, we are still a vital part of the projects transition from concept into a reality.
The Pride L.A.: What is it like working in a largely male-dominated industry?
Christie: The industry itself has come a long way. 25 years ago, it was very misogynistic and homophobic; a woman would have to work much harder than male peers for recognition or promotion. Honestly, I did not even come out at work until 10 years ago when my wife and I decided to get married. Now, the world is not quite the same. Perhaps it’s the certifications talking, but it’s now more about capability and performance. You either have the past performance or capability to execute the scope or work or you don’t. Performance, and money, talk. That’s not to say that there are not still instances of misogyny and homophobia, there are. It just comes up less often. We are fortunate to be based out of Long Beach, CA where we are among some of the more open-minded companies.
The Pride L.A.: What makes Grace Industries special or stand out?
Mechelle: We pride ourselves on our customer service and capability to perform to the scope of work. We compete on price and win on service. Grace Industries is strategically aligned with some of the largest transportation and logistics networks across the globe.
The Pride L.A.: Who is your clientele/what are they like?
Christie: We have clients in the technology sector, the motion picture sector, the education sector and construction sector. Many of our customers need logistics support services, transportation brokerage services or consulting services. We do have some clients who need recycling services (performed under our DBA Evergreen Recycling Services).
The Pride L.A.: What are some struggles Grace Industries has overcome?
Christie: One of the largest struggles we have had to overcome is helping procurement staff in certain industries understand what we do. We are not asset based, we are a broker who secures transportation or logistics capacity for a project. In our first year, we learned that many of the fortune 100 companies will not work with us because we are not asset based. As a result, we changed our strategy. We began to focus on potential clients that would need to leverage our certificates to support their diversity commitments and who understood that the scope of work required more than just one carrier or fulfilment facility to complete the project.
The Pride L.A.: What are some recent victories/exciting news?
Christie: In March of this year we were awarded a kitting and fulfillment contract from Sony Pictures Entertainment. In July of this year we were awarded a significant transportation brokerage contract from Turner/AEcom.
The Pride L.A.: What do you want the LGBT community to know about you, Grace
Industries or owning a business in general?
Christie: Grace Industries LLC is owned by Christie and Mechelle Maier, proud parents of two small children. We are very active in the Long Beach Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and in our Community. Mechelle runs a LGBT parenting group called “Families like Us” focused on bringing together LGBT families.
Grace industries LLC is a LGBT family-owned business that we hope to pass on to our children one day.
We have invested a large amount of resources in attaining and maintaining certifications for our organization. Our perspective is that this gives us a seat at the table, a table we may not have otherwise been invited to had it not been for the diversity certifications. Attaining these certifications doesn’t mean that we receive automatic contract awards, preferential treatment or any other competitive advantage.
Regardless of what business you decide to start, certifications or not, everything is about relationship building. A conversation at a networking event will not always lead to a contract. There are times when we have spent years talking to a potential client before we finally landed the client. That happens, do not let it discourage you. Join your local gay and lesbian chamber of commerce, attend networking events or conferences relative to your business and build relationships. The business will eventually come, it just may take some persistence and patience.
For more information on Grace Industries, LLC, click HERE or call 1-(866) 468-5889.